SelectButton's Early Access reviews provide valuable insight into a work in progress. The game will be reevaluated once officially released, as the review below is based on the Early Access build of the game at the time of the review's published date.
Dinosaurs have reclaimed their planet 65 million years after the Cretaceous Period ended with an impact that wiped most life from the Earth. Strange mutations have brought them back, hunting humanity until the last few remaining survivors fled off-world safely. Now, to reclaim Earth, you must assemble a three-person team of resistance fighters, complement each other's loadout and once again send the prehistoric beasts back to the extinction list.
In Second Extinction, teams with three drop down onto a massive open-world, completing primary objectives and extracting before hundreds of sharp teeth and claws rip you to shreds. As a recently released Steam Early Access title, with consoles having to wait till 2021, there's an enjoyable experience to be had, even if it is rough around the edges in its current form. First off, the game is designed as a cooperative title, preferably with a full three-person squad. The game doesn't tailor the experience or difficulty for smaller parties. I've attempted to drop to the surface alone, and let's say, I lasted about as long as Dennis Nedry did against the Dilophosaurus in Jurassic Park. Is it possible to accomplish objectives solo? Absolutely. Is that the best way to play the game, in my opinion? Absolutely not.
The frozen tundra campaign has six main missions, spread across rocky mountainous areas, vast valleys and cavern systems, and frosty, icy shorelines. Finishing the starting five missions unlocks the final sixth mission. The mutated dinosaurs in Second Extinction are quite varied (although Velociraptors are clearly the developer's favorites), ensuring you aren't merely facing the dinosaurs you've learned about in the history books. Sure, the most common enemies are packs of standard raptors (need more feathers) are deadly in their own right, but the game shines when it starts throwing various types of mutated species at you and your team.
The larger alpha raptor can boost nearby raptors and call for reinforcements. The electric raptor can camouflage themselves, use electricity to attack, and dodge incoming bullets. Diggers come equipped with armor protecting their head and arms, the ability to burrow into the ground, and launch themselves upwards. Thankfully, raptors aren't the only species in the game, as you'll need to coordinate with your team to take down larger and stronger threats. The armored Ankylosaurus with its wrecking ball-like tail and the rampaging Triceratops require you to alter your tactics. The best approach involves the use of explosives to knock them over, exposing their weak point. The Tyrannosaurus is capable of leaping towards you, using their massive teeth to rip you apart, and stomping their massive feet to disorient you if you happen to be nearby.
Second Extinction features weekly world updates that alter the three-tier levels of threat (low, medium, and high) assigned to each map region. High enough threat level, and you won't be able to drop into that area or even call for an extraction. Heck, you may not even be able to respawn upon death. Without a partner to help you up, you may have a long trip back to the objective. Dinosaurs roam in higher numbers, not to mention that the regions with the most heightened threats are covered in neon glowing bioluminescence. I have yet to experience an emergence event but hear they are challenging. Completing missions and objectives in specific areas, lowers the threat level while failing to reduce the advancing mutated dinosaurs raises the threat. Currently, half of the map is at the highest threat level, and this being the first world campaign during Early Access may lead to an utter failure for humanity. The aim is to provide a risk vs. reward element, where the higher threat levels offer a higher chance of obtaining rare materials for upgrades. Contracts are unlocked upon reaching level five, providing even further rewards. The more objectives you complete, the higher your mission rating.
Each region has various optional objectives that aren't tied to the primary mission goals. You are free to cross into other areas, meaning there are dozens of objectives for you to complete every time you drop to the planet's surface. You may be tasked with blowing up caverns, hunting down a t-rex, activating radar stations, shooting down drones, trapping raptors, extracting supply crates, and more.
There are only seven weapons in the game (currently), each with their own stats based on damage, range, fire rate, etc. As you complete missions and objectives, you'll earn research points and collect resources. The upgrade process is a bit cumbersome; you need to spend research points to create upgrade tokens and to unlock upgrade slots, adding a +1 to impact, stability, handling, etc. You'll need to place the upgrade tokens into the slots to gain across to any connected perks, which also needs to be unlocked. However, the perks forgo using research and instead require you to spend materials collected from dinosaurs.
Each of the four heroes comes with a primary and secondary weapon and three abilities (one passive and two actives). For example, Ortega can replace her sidearm with a primary weapon, giving her access to an assault rifle and shotgun. Her active traits allow her to dash forward, while her unique ability triggers an enhanced combat state. With her massive heavy minigun, Rosy can passively regain health, deploy electrical barriers, and trigger her teammates' health regeneration. One thing to note in my six or seven games with Marcus and Tim, other players were not able to visually see the pylons placed, which makes it harder to lure foes into traps.
Second Extinction shows promise, although I wouldn't want to play without a full three-person party. Through Steam Early Access, the developers plan to expand the game with new types of mutations, emergence events, weapons, updates/fixes, seasonal content, and more. It's fun dropping supply pods onto raptors and watching them get launched through the air. Weapons feel a tad underpowered, but I'll admit none of them are currently fully upgraded. Each of us did experience crashing here and there, but once you boot back into the game, there's an option to rejoin, and it worked every time. I think it is a bit silly that the game doesn't support drop-in/out support once missions have started, and I do hope cross-play will come once the game launches on other platforms.Note: Second Extinction (Early Access) was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.